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Lesson Plans


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Preventing Teen Pregnancy


Grade Levels: 9-12

Estimated time: 3 class periods


In the To the Contrary teen pregnancy episode, Sarah Brown from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy says that "parents are…the unrecognized weapon" against teen pregnancy. Indeed, surveys and interviews with teenagers have found that parents have much more influence than they think they do over their teenage children’s sex-related decisions and behaviors. This lesson has students consider this impact, as well as that of peers, school, and the media. They’ll see the results of surveys related to the parental role and will discuss their own views on this topic. They’ll conclude by creating posters or brochures to help parents understand how best to communicate with their teenage children about sex.

Parts of this lesson have been designed as group activities. If you feel that your students will not work well in groups on this sensitive subject, you may choose to have them do the group parts either individually or with partners with whom they work well.

Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

  • Brainstorm and discuss ways in which peers, parents, schools, and the media influence teenagers’ decisions and behaviors regarding sex and pregnancy prevention.
  • View and discuss the teen pregnancy segment of To the Contrary.
  • Read survey results about parents and teen pregnancy prevention, and discuss their opinions of these results.
  • Use a Web page to learn about recommended strategies for parents to talk to their teenagers about sexuality and pregnancy, and list the tips they think are the most effective.
  • Create posters or brochures to educate parents about the role they can play in preventing teen pregnancy.

Materials Needed:

  • Computers with Internet access
  • TV and VCR
  • Video of To the Contrary segment on teen pregnancy

Standards (from

National Health Standards:

Standard 7: Knows how to maintain and promote personal health



Standard 10: Understands the fundamental concepts of growth and development





Teaching Strategy:

  1. Write these words on the board: peers, parents, school, the media. Ask students to describe some of the ways in which each of these factors influences teen decisions and behaviors regarding sexual activity, including pregnancy prevention. In other words, how do peers, parents, the school, and the media affect the choices of people their age? List their ideas on the board.
  2. Ask students if there are any other factors that they think have a strong influence on teenagers’ behaviors related to dating, sex, and pregnancy. Write these additional ideas on the board if students have any to contribute.
  3. Show students the To the Contrary teen pregnancy episode. Ask them to pay particularly close attention to factors that the teens featured in the program feel have the most influence on their decisions and behaviors. Have students take notes on these factors.
  4. Discuss these questions as a class:
    1. What did the teenagers in the video feel are the most important factors to help prevent pregnancy in their age group?
    2. What suggestions did the program give for how parents can influence their teenage children’s decisions about sex?
    3. What do you think Sarah Brown meant when she stated that "parents are…the unrecognized weapon" against teen pregnancy? What does this statement suggest about parents’ roles?
  5. Discuss as a class whether students agree or disagree with what the teenagers in the program have said about the role of parents in influencing decisions about sex.
  6. Divide the class into small groups of approximately four students each. Ask each group to look at the poll results at "Parents and Teen Pregnancy: What Surveys Show" ( Have them discuss and write the answers to the questions below. When group members disagree with each other, they should write down the point(s) on which they disagree and record the opinions of all sides of the debate within their group.
    (As an option, you can also have students look at the additional poll results available at
    • Which items on this list do you agree with, and why?
    • Are there any points on this list that you strongly disagree with? If so, why?
    • How important is the peer group in influencing behavior and decisions?
    • How important is the media in influencing behavior and decisions?
    • How much influence do you think parents have in shaping their teenage children’s behaviors and decisions?
    • What mistakes, if any, do you think parents make when dealing with sex-related issues with their children? Are there any specific ways you'd recommend parents talk to their children about sex or model appropriate behaviors?
  7. Discuss groups' responses to the above questions as a class. If there is considerable disagreement about any of the questions, discuss the reasons students think they might have differing opinions. Make sure they realize that there are no right or wrong answers to these questions.
  8. Have groups return to the Internet and skim the "Ten Tips for Parents to Help Their Children Avoid Teen Pregnancy" page ( to find out some recommended strategies for parents to communicate with their teenage children about sexuality and pregnancy. Ask them to list the top three tips that they feel are the most important.
  9. Discuss groups’ favorite tips for parents as a class. What do they think parents most need to do to help their children make wise decisions?


Ask students to imagine that they've been hired by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. They're on committees that have been given the responsibility to produce posters or brochures to educate parents about the role they can play in preventing teen pregnancy.

Have students work in groups or pairs to create these presentations. You may choose to have them work in the same groups or to choose partners with whom they're comfortable working on this type of project. Reassure them that they won't really have to share these presentations with their parents, but that they should be directed towards parents in general.

Their posters or brochures should accomplish the following:

  • Look visually appealing so that parents would want to pay attention to them.
  • Explain why parents have a role to play in preventing teen pregnancy. This section should include some results of the polls that students have viewed online as well as student’s own ideas if they differ from those on the Web site.
  • Instruct parents as to how they can influence their teenage children to make positive choices about sexual behavior. This section should include specific tips for how to talk to teens about sex. Here, groups will need to discuss their own ideas about how parents can effectively talk to teens about these issues.

Extension Ideas:

  • If you feel that your students are mature enough to perform this task seriously enough, have them role play parents discussing teen pregnancy and other sexuality topics with their kids. Students can take turns being the "parents" and the teenagers and can model both effective and ineffective communication methods.
  • Ask the class to brainstorm and list the potential consequences of teen pregnancy on individuals, families, and society. Then have them learn about some of these implications at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Web site (, linking to "Why Care?" on the left side of the screen. As they browse the page, have them add items to their lists or modify the items they’ve already listed. Discuss their findings as a class, posing these questions in the discussion: What do you feel are the most significant or troublesome consequences of teen pregnancy? Are there any potential consequences that you hadn’t thought about before? In what ways does teen pregnancy affect society as a whole? Also discuss whether students think any of these consequences are strong deterrents to having sex.
  • Ask students to bring in some of their favorite magazines to class. If some of them (particularly the boys) do not read magazines, bring in a few samples of your own, such as "muscle" magazines (with pictures of male bodybuilders), sports magazines, or car magazines.
    Have students work in groups to choose magazine ads or images that represent women, girls, men, or boys in stereotypical ways. Ask them to write paragraphs describing the gender stereotype in one ad or picture and explaining whether this type of image might influence teens’ ideas about themselves and other people. Also ask them to state whether they think this type of stereotype could contribute to attitudes about sex, and, if so, how.
    To continue this activity, have students create counter-ads based on the actual ad they’ve chosen. A counter-ad is an ad that counters, or parodies, the real ad.
    For examples of counter-ads parodying tobacco ads, see BADAdvertising Country ( A few other examples of counter-ads can be seen at "Satirical Counter-Ads As Critical Pedagogy" (
    ); this is a downloadable PDF document.
    If you’re interested in continuing this topic in additional lessons, try "Exposing Gender Stereotypes" at
    and the two corresponding lessons to which you can link from this page.
  • Have students design and conduct a survey in their school to find out what other students feel are the best strategies for preventing teen pregnancy. They may use the polls at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Web site (, including the PDF file "Not Just Another Thing to Do" ( to help them come up with good survey questions. They should be sure to ask their peers which factors they feel have the greatest influence on teens’ sex-related decisions and behaviors. After they’ve finished their survey, ask students to compile and discuss the anonymous results. As an option, they could publish the results in a newsletter to be circulated throughout the school.
  • Remind students of Sarah Brown's statement that abstinence messages are "not at odds" with offering information about contraception. Ask them to browse through some of the Web sites available by linking from; all of these sites address sex education from an abstinence-only perspective and do not discuss birth control. Ask students to write opinion papers answering the question "Do you think abstinence-only sex education is the best way to educate teens about sex? Why or why not?"

Online Resources
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:
Advocates for Youth Teen Pregnancy Prevention:
Eldis: Key Issues: Abstinence: (discusses research results on the efficacy of abstinence-only versus broad-based sexual education programs)

About the Author
Betsy Hedberg is a teacher and freelance curriculum writer who has published lesson plans on a variety of subjects. She received her Secondary Teaching Credential in Social Studies from Loyola Marymount University and her Master of Arts in Geography from UCLA. In addition to curriculum writing, she presents seminars and training sessions to help teachers incorporate the Internet into their classrooms.



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